Delta Airlines, the US-based travel company, is tackling the largest hurdle to players in the aviation industry, differentiation, by working to create tools that use customer data to enhance an experience that few customers enjoy. Key to this strategy is the high-value customer.

 “One of the things that we've got to do in our industry is about differentiation,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, explained at CES 2019, an event held by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in Las Vegas. (Read WARC’s exclusive report: Delta soars towards data-driven differentiation.)

“Our goal … is to make travel, and flying, something that customers don't have to endure … but really something that's magical and … brings some of that magic and light back to the experience”, Bastian added. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated: Airlines tend to sit alongside cable and internet-service providers when it comes to recording the lowest customer satisfaction ratings among the US public.

Delta, however, sees a route through this context by crunching and activating consumer data. Until recently, the company simply didn’t have the ability to use that information to improve the customer experience. First, Bastian suggests there could be an extension to the company’s app, which allows users to plan, book, and manage trips, but in future may serve as a point of contact that lets the company truly know the customer.

“We're really just at the precipice of that. And there's many, many applications,” said Bastian. “Just imagine: you're sitting on an airplane … and you're recognized by our flight attendant when you sit.”

Ideally, this flight attendant will be able to greet a high-value passenger by name, express gratitude for their on-going custom, and bring them a beverage that is already known to be their preferred choice.

“When we talk about digital ‘transformation’, I think about it as ‘personalizing’ because we want to build that relationship with people that only technology can provide when you do it on this scale,” Bastian said.

In 2017, for example, Delta began utilizing its data trove to give flight attendants a “prioritized list of customers to recognize” on domestic flights, based on factors like whether they belong to its Medallion program, which rewards high-spending customers, as well as any recent flight interruptions, their status as a corporate traveler, and so on.

Delta’s employees noted the reaction of fliers to these efforts in order to demonstrate that such an idea was welcomed by customers, and early tests found just 1% of such “recognition events” yielded a negative response, while the mass of positive engagements were very powerful for the brand.

Sourced from WARC